This brazenly manipulative but undeniably effective disaster movie is as corny as an industrial-sized bag of week-old popcorn but proves that the Chinese film industry really has entered the late stages of capitalist aesthetic degeneration. Directed by Andrew Lau, who shepherded the glorious Infernal Affairs trilogy to completion, this based on a true story drama offers a suspenseful fictionalisation of what happened when the cockpit windshield on a Sichuan Airlines flight shattered unexpectedly while the plane was at 32,000 ft over the Tibetan plateau.
Craggy-featured Zhang Hanyu anchors the story as the titular captain Liu Changjian, a terse, disciplined ex-air force pilot whose fortitude and quick reactions are tested by this sudden crisis. But the fun part is the way the film stays in the well-worn grooves of genre expectation with the supporting cast of characters, including a cheeky pup of a co-pilot (Jiang Du) who is chastised by circumstance, a steady nerved, swan-like head of the cabin crew (Quan Yuan), and various other crew members and passengers whose actions variously help or hinder efforts to land the plane safely – like the jerk in business class who you secretly hope will die and the cute Tibetan kid and his mom who look like they could easily be sacrifices to the chaotic gods of aeronautic disaster. Sadly, there is no nun with a guitar whose vigorous impromptu performance nearly kills a sick child, or an inflatable autopilot in the tradition of Airplane!
Nevertheless, the visual effects are convincing and Lau and his editing team know just when to move the stick at the controls to speed up the pace or slow it down, making for a proper nail biter even if you already know what happens in the real Bola Deposit Pulsa Story.